Recent developments in methods of reducing drag in turbulent boundary layers have been briefly reviewed. The behavior of the mean flow in several drag reducing boundary-layer flows of current interest, viz., those over longitudinal surface riblets, outer-layer devices (OLD’s), and longitudinal convex surface curvature, has been examined. The boundary layer on a surface with longitudinal concave curvature has been studied to complement the results of convex curvature. The riblets alter the flow in their vicinity only and cause no drag penalty. However, the OLD’s disturb the entire boundary layer, and it is the slow downstream (≃150 δ0) relaxation back to the equilibrium state that produces a region of lower skin friction; a net drag reduction results when the wall-drag reduction exceeds the drag penalty due to the device. The net drag reduction achieved by the riblets and OLD’s remains a modest 10 percent compared with the more spectacular levels reached by polymer addition and microbubble injection in water. Over mild convex curvatures, the outer-boundary-layer response is a function of the curvature ratio (δ0/R), and the relaxation rate after a length of convex curvature is a function of the curved length ratio (Δs0i). Boundary layers exhibit an asymmetric response to streamwise surface curvatures; the response is slower to a concave curvature than to a convex. Detailed turbulence and accurate wall shear stress measurements in the altered boundary layers are needed to understand the drag-reducing mechanisms involved.

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